Of course I mean tazettas, and they’re given rather short shrift by even the most ardent of bulb addicts, for several good reasons, as follows:
In most U.S. zones they are one-time use only.
The stems are lanky.
The flowers are small.
Finally, and most damningly, to the majority of noses, they just plain stink.
All of this is true. IF, that is, you limit yourself to the most common variety, Ziva. Thanks to a strong and urgent need to grow flowers in the winter and a tolerance for the strong fragrance, I started buying Ziva eight years ago. And then came the epiphany: there were other, better tazetta varieties than Ziva. Most take longer to flower—some a month or more longer—and most are not as floriferous as Ziva, but the pay-offs are worth the caveats. My current favorites are Grand Soleil d’Or and Golden Rain, a double variant of Grand. These take a good six-eight weeks to come out but you get lovely, long-lasting golden flowers with a mild, sweet fragrance. You see them above. (I’ve gotten these through Brent and Becky’s.)
Other excellent options are the tazetta varieties sold by Old House Gardens; two I’ve tried are Avalanche and Grand Primo. These will need a two-week chilling period (a cold, dark room is fine), but they give you a true grassy daffodil fragrance. If they’re kept in good sunlight after the dark period, you won’t get any bud blast.
Yeah, it is a bit harder to work with these varieties, but so what. Nothing I do indoors is nearly as onerous as what I go through outside every summer. (What is it with that anyway? Why are a few minor chores and a few fatalities such a huge deal indoors when we have ten times the hassle outside all summer long and don’t mind a bit? I sort of get it, but still.)
So here’s my advice: if paperwhites are synonymous with Ziva for you, you might want to give them another shot. Really.